There are potential torts and there are POTENTIAL TORTS. This hanging rusty spike stands out even on the gritty, tort-filled streets and sidewalks of downtown Memphis. As you can see in the second picture, it’s hanging at a level where a person could walk right into it.
I snapped this shot on my way to the annual law review banquet a week ago and was surprised to see it still hanging yesterday on my way back from lunch.
The headline reference, of course, is to a line from the Rolling Stone’s Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
You think this is bad, you should see how the guy tried to move his living room. Not the furniture, the entire room.
Why waste money on a delivery charge just to save a few million in accident costs?
–Thanks to Tommy Rogers
Spotting torts, as we like to do here at Lawhaha.com, has its benefits as a pastime, but maybe a new “Fix the Tort” category should be added to “Spot the Tort.” After all, reducing risk, not just identifying it, should be the ultimate goal.
From sunny South Florida comes this picture of a downed stopped sign which, amazingly, the sender reported was fixed the same day it went down. Good job, city workers.
Law schools, filled as they are with lawyers and law students, are pretty safe places, but they sometimes present their own dangerous premises issues, as here in a University of Memphis classroom where students were trying out some new technology that has not reached the wireless stage. The result: a spider web of trip and fall possibilities. Thanks to Rachel Cade.
You thought “Risk” was a good game? Spotting risk is even more fun, and definitely more educational. As law students learn in Torts, the world is a dangerous place where the worst that can happen often does.
My 1Ls at the University of Memphis have been participating in a “Spot the Tort” Contest. Check out their photo entries. This is just one sample of the “accidents waiting to happen” they’ve documented in and around Memphis.
“I am just a nowhere man, falling into nowhere land, stepping through the balcony doors to nowhere.”
With apologies to the Beatles, that’s the tune that came to mind on receiving this picture of a second floor balcony with nowhere to go but down at a resort at Pickwick Lake in Tennessee.
The submitter said the doors open inward. While the railing no doubt helps, the open space at the bottom is still a tort waiting to happen.
From a University of Memphis law student comes this photo of a treacherous, spiral staircase that looks like it would be a perfect set piece for a low-budget version of a Harry Potter movie. The student said the whole staircase, not just the railing, “wobbles all the way down.”
Spooky. And dangerous.
Seriously. Stairs, like ladders and any other place a person can fall from height, can be extremely perilous. One recent study found that 931,886 children under five were treated in emergency rooms for stair-related injuries from 1999 through 2008, averaging 93,189 injuries per year.
Speaking of Hogwarts Torts …
When paint is not enough, add a warning cone, but do not, under any circumstances, consider actually repairing the dangerous condition.
Good news! Well, kind of, sort of. Visitors might recall the treacherous sidewalk abyss adjacent to a busy Memphis street that I regularly walk on. The first attempted fix was to spray orange paint around the edge.
But maybe someone broke their leg despite that aggressive risk-reducing measure, because now the city has a new fix: an orange cone! Cement apparently is still not being considered.
But, oops, we also have a new problem a couple yards farther down: a curb stone in the middle of the sidewalk.
When Marc Cohn sang, “Walkin’ in Memphis, walkin’ with my feet ten feet off of Beale,” he may have been giving risk avoidance advice.
Good old Memphis, a streets-and-sidewalks tort mecca.
These photos were taken a couple blocks from Beale Street in downtown Memphis.
Walk a hundred steps, spot a tort. Walk another hundred steps, spot a tort. And so on.
A student snapped this photo of a food vending truck in Memphis, where a customer is perched precariously on some portable steps placing an order. The steps should be both longer and wider for stability and to avoid missteps and missed steps. On the other hand, give the vendor credit for the safety cones.
Dang, should have trademarked, “Spot the Tort,” the family friendly game of risk reduction. A former student at the Florida International University College of Law sent along this amusing law firm advertisement. (Click to expand.)
A first-year University of Memphis law student sent along this picture from the parking garage where most students park. The picture came as a follow-up to our class discussion in Torts II of the use of exculpatory clauses by, among others, parking garages.
Exculpatory clauses–which invariably appear on the back of tickets customers receive when they enter a parking garage–operate to relieve negligent actors of liability. Exculpatory clauses generally will be upheld if clearly written, so long as they do not pertain to an essential public service, such as medical care or education. Courts are split on whether parking garages qualify as essential public service within this rule.
Here the student pointed to two large holes in the concrete on one of the upper-levels where someone has attached, with small fasteners, thin sheets of metal as covers (that’s light shining from the floor below). She noted that ”part of the one hole is still exposed where someone’s foot could fall through,” but said it made her even more nervous to think that large cars were depending on the thin sheets for support.
Taking a walk near my house in Memphis, I encountered this dangerous sidewalk condition.
Note that instead of filling in the chasm, the city apparently opted to leave it be and cure the problem instead by spray-painting a thin orange warning line around it.
Since the condition has been there for a quite a while (the orange paint is very faded), it appears this was considered to be an acceptable final fix.
Okay, not quite the stairway to heaven, but this long ladder could give the user a good head start. (All pics are expandable.) This picture from a University of Memphis law student makes me shudder.
Ladders are one of the most dangerous consumer products. A study published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health estimated that 2.2 million people received treatment in emergency rooms for ladder injuries during the 16-year-period from 1990-2005, an average of 136,000 cases a year.
Nearly 10% of injuries resulted in hospitalization, roughly twice that of consumer product-related injuries overall.
Other ladder injury data from the study included:
- Men predominated over women in the percentage of injuries (76.5%).
- Fractures were the most common type of injury (31.5%).
- The number of ladder-related injuries increased by more than 50% from 1990 to 2005.
- Of the cases for which locale of injury was recorded, 97.3% occurred in non-occupational settings, such as homes and farms.
Don’t underestimate the risks of ladders. Did you know that extension ladders need to be set up at a 75 and 1/2 degree angle (the “4 to 1 rule”) to minimize the risk of slipping? Here are some other ladder safety tips from the Industrial Accident Prevention Association.
A University of Memphis law student snapped this shot of someone trying to move way too many wood palletes at one time in the back of a pickup truck.
“Let’s see, where should we build the dangerous fireworks retail outlet?”
“How about right here next to these dangerous gasoline pumps?”
University of Memphis law student Ella Hernandez caught this funny juxtaposition on a Florida vacation. (Click on the pic to expand and fully appreciate.)
This picture has the makings of a classic Torts exam question. Just throw in some lightning and a school bus careening out of control.
Taken in downtown Memphis, with the Pyramid building in the background.
I guess one of those little yellow flags at the end might help (and may required by law), but that ladder still looks too long to be taking a ride in such a short truck.
Wonder what’s holding it down inside the truck. Whatever it is, leverage is working against it.
In 2010, the University of Memphis law school changed locations, moving from the main university campus to the magnificent, beautifully restored ($42 million worth) U.S. Customs House downtown on the Mississippi River.
The building is incredible, but as with any new gigantic construction project, quite a few punch-list items remained. Immediately, students started spotting and reporting dangerous premises conditions, which were forwarded to the administration.
This particular condition comprised significant drop-offs without barriers on both sides of the main entry doors.
The administration must have agreed it was dangerous because the concrete planters were in place within two days.
Good fix! The drop-offs were not easily visible even in daylight as you can see in the second picture.
Spot the Tort isn’t just for lawyers and law students. A layperson was shocked (not literally, fortunately) to find this high-voltage electrical danger smack in the middle of an Atlanta grocery store.
Note to store: Your hidden warning on the back will not protect you from tort liability with regard to your “business invitee” customers. A business invitor has a duty to make the premises reasonably safe for invitees. Sometimes a warning may suffice, but only it if allows customers to negotiate the premises safely.
A lot of negligence questions are murky with no reliable answers, but I feel comfortable predicting that a judge or jury would consider placing these exposed high voltage cables in a place where children often wander freely to constitute an unreasonable risk.
Ironically, getting close enough to read this warning actually increases the risk.
… 50 yards from a preschool.
University of Memphis law student Leighann Ness sent this picture of a water-filled hole a stone’s throw away from the Nashville preschool attended by her daughter.
Meanwhile, while awaiting corrective action, we can all rest easy that this ribbon of yellow tape will effectively protect nearby toddlers and others.
Leighann reported that her non-lawyer husband is the one who actually spotted the problem. As I always say, Spot the Tort is a game for the whole family.
Thanks to Duncan Young, a childhood friend from back in South Florida, for this pic of a dangerous pedestrian/jogger/pet/bike rider/car-absorbing death-trap on a Ft. Lauderdale street where the grate is missing.
As a good citizen (and police chief of a neighboring community), he reported it. The next time he drove by a new grate had been installed.
No way to know whether the quick corrective action occurred because: (1) Duncan is a police chief of a neighboring community; (2) the city has genuine concern for its citizens; or (3) the city has genuine concerns about being sued.